By virtually any measure, these are halcyon days for A.O. Smith Corp.

So it would be understandable if A.O. Smith Chairman and CEO Ajita Rajendra were to be found popping open a champagne bottle or lighting a big cigar in his impressive office on the 12th floor of the company’s headquarters at Park Place on Milwaukee’s far northwest side.

That isn’t going to happen.

“This is only halftime. We’re a 142-year-old company. We have to think about the next 142 years,” Rajendra says. “We’re always investing in the future.”

That kind of forward thinking has been key to A.O. Smith’s growth as the world’s largest manufacturer of water heaters.

Rajendra says A.O. Smith is in a perpetual state of intentional self-disruption.

“We want to make our technologies irrelevant and obsolete before someone else does,” Rajendra says.

Rajendra joined A.O. Smith as president of the company’s Water Products Co. in Nashville in 2005.

A turning point in A.O. Smith history came in 2010, when it decided to sell its Electric Products Co. for $900 million and focus on water — an essential element of life and an essential element of A.O. Smith’s future.

“Before that, there wasn’t a clear ‘this is who we are.’ It allowed us to get out and focus on the water,” Rajendra says.

Rajendra’s decisive leadership has been a driving factor in A.O. Smith’s growth, according to Paul Jones, the company’s former CEO, who hand-picked his successor.

View the full story by the Journal Sentinel